What is the cost of a poor translation?
Last month, we discussed the importance of accurate translation for healthcare professionals and provided some examples of how errors negatively affected patients. The cost of poor translation in both monetary and life experiences for patients is unforgivable and unnecessary. We saw examples of errors made by machine translation which proves there is significant work that needs to be done in this area.
In the United States of America, Federal law requires health care organizations (such as clinics and hospitals) to provide interpreters and translators for their patients. This is intended to reduce the risk for those patients who do not speak English so they can understand their diagnosis, treatment and prognoses. The reality is that many facilities do not provide these services, and often rely on machine translation because it is easy, accessible and timely. However, machine translation does not consider context, meaning that the software may not recognize a particular word and so it takes a “guess” at it. Consider the variety of documents needing to be translated, including appointment slips, prescriptions, informational brochures, treatment instructions, medical device manuals, research reports and potential side effects of treatment or medications. According to Breena Taira, an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at UCLA Health, doctors will do the best they can, but she encourages the health care industry to improve its track record in this area.
Here is another example of a patient’s experience ending in tragedy. In 2010, a Spanish-speaking man arrived at a California hospital for an operation to remove a diseased kidney. Hospital staff directed the patient to sign a consent form, in English, that indicated which kidney needed to be removed. The form was not translated into Spanish, so the patient did not realize that the wrong kidney was indicated for the surgery. The hospital removed the kidney, then realized it was the wrong one, so they removed the diseased kidney, also, which resulted in severe health consequences for the man. NBC News reported that the State Health Department cited the hospital “for errors leading up to the surgery, including failing to follow safety protocol and failing to communicate accurately with the Spanish-speaking patient.”
The varied facets of this problem highlight its importance in the larger picture of health care and more importantly, patient care. Cypher Translations uses several layers of review to ensure accuracy in translating medical information. Our translators and editors have experience in healthcare translation and can work in this ever-changing field to provide the most accurate translations possible. Does it cost more to do it our way? Yes, but ask yourself: What’s a life worth?
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